How Much Water Should be in a Turtle Tank?

How Much Water Should be in a Turtle Tank

Getting a pet turtle might be exciting, but it is challenging to give them a proper habitat. People often make the mistake of selecting a small tank for their turtle. A smaller tank means less space for your baby turtle to swim. Also, smaller tanks would not be sufficient for them as they grow.

Choosing at least a 50-gallon capacity tank is always better to avoid such troubles. Another common problem that turtle owners face is not knowing how much water they should put in turtle tanks. It is important to know the water requirements of your turtle; otherwise, you will end up giving discomfort to your little friend.

Different turtle species have different water requirements. Let’s dive deep into the topic and understand how much water should be in a turtle tank.

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How much water should be in a turtle tank?

Depending on the species, the water requirements for turtles could be different. Aquatic turtle species need more water in their tank than semi-aquatic species. 

For a general understanding, you can check your turtle’s feet. If they have webbed feet, they are evolved to be in the water all the time. Whereas if they don’t have webbed feet, it means they are not a pro at swimming underwater. In that case, they would need less water; otherwise, they might drown. Webbed feet help turtles swim underwater, and so most aquatic species of turtles evolved with webbed feet. 

Aquatic turtles need 60% of their tank filled with water. A rule of thumb would be to provide your turtle with 10-15 gallons of water per inch of its shell. Suppose you have a 100-gallon tank, then you should fill it up to 60 gallons with water. 

Make sure to provide them with a basking spot in the tank where they can dry them off. No matter what kind of turtle you have, a basking spot is a must for turtles. 

Semi-aquatic turtles like box turtles are not very good at swimming. They don’t need much water in their enclosure. They only need water to soak them up, and the rest of the tank would be filled with substrate. For semi-aquatic turtles, the water level should not be above their bottom shell or plastron. These turtle species can drown even in a few inches of water, so they must only have access to a shallow water dish.

Can you put too much water in a turtle tank?

Too much water in a baby turtle tank could be dangerous for them. Baby turtles lack the skill to swim. The tank should have plants that turtles can grab to come to the top. Too deep water with just a basking dock could cause baby turtles to drown.

You can add 60-70% water in their tank for adult aquatic turtles, and they would be fine. I would not suggest going beyond that as turtles are very good at jumping and could easily escape the tank.

Another factor you can consider while deciding the water level for your turtle tank is their feet. If your turtle has webbed feet, it means they will be safe even if you add more water to the tank. Non-webbed feet means your turtle needs land rather than water. In that case, place a water dish in their tank and fill the rest of the area with the substrate.

Can turtles live in a tank full of water?

Not all species of turtles can live in a tank full of water. If I have to tell specifically, adult aquatic turtles can live in a tank full of water, given that the tank is not sealed off from the atmosphere.

Turtles need air to breathe, and for that, they come out of the water to get some fresh air. If your tank is full of water, it means they might not be able to get enough air, and so they could suffocate. Tank full of water also means that there is no availability of a basking area. Without a basking dock, turtles would not be able to dry their shell, leading to shell infection or even shell rot.

Another thing to consider before filling up the turtle tank completely is their jumping capability. Turtles are good jumpers, and a tank full of water will give them access to the full height of the tank. They will not hesitate to jump off the tank and escape in such a situation.

How much water does a red-eared slider need?

Red-eared sliders are excellent swimmers, so they need more tank space to swim. If your tank water is at least as deep as twice the length of your turtle shell, then your red-eared slider is safe. You should avoid shallow water in the tank as your turtle may get dropped on its back and not able to flip to normal. This could be dangerous to them and cause them out of breath. Ensure your tank has deep enough water for the red-eared slider to swim.

How much water does a baby turtle need?

Baby turtles need less water in the tank as compared to adults. For baby turtles, you can fill your tank up to twice the length of their shell. It is important to have not too deep of water in their tank. Baby turtles don’t have much lung capacity, so they are more susceptible to drowning.

How deep should the water be in a turtle tank?

Turtles have lungs, and they need air to breathe. If your tank has too much depth, it will be trouble for your turtle to come up to the top. Baby turtles can easily drown in deep water inside the tank. As a rule of thumb, your tank should be about 2-3 times deep the length of your turtle shell. Suppose your turtle shell is 4 inches long; this means 8-10 inch deep water would be enough for your turtle to swim and flip happily.

Ensure your tank does not have any place where turtles can get trapped. If this happens, it could cause them to drown. It is even of more importance for baby turtles since their lungs have less capacity to hold air.


To keep your turtle safe, it is important to give them plenty of water in their tank. Aquatic turtle species require 60% water in their tank. On the other hand, semi-aquatic turtles are not good at swimming, so they are at a higher risk of drowning even in shallow water.